Mr. Vu Hoang Lien, Head of Vietnam Internet Association

PANO - It has been argued abroad that the internet environment in Vietnam has not developed and there is no freedom on internet in Vietnam. Those assessments are inconsistent with the reality of internet use in Vietnam at present. To make it clear, PANO interviewed Mr. Vu Hoang Lien, Head of Vietnam Internet Association.

- Could you illustrate the development of the internet in Vietnam?

- It has been around 13 years since the internet network in Vietnam officially joined global internet network on January 12th, 1997. It is true that Vietnam is currently one of the countries with the fastest and strongest internet development not only in the region, but also in the world. The development can be seen in infrastructure, technology, subscribers and the quality of contents posted on internet.

Since 2000, the number of internet subscribers in Vietnam has increased by 100 times. In fact, around 3.8 percent of the population used internet in December 2003, while the percentage of internet subscribers last December reached 31.1 percent (equivalent with 26.7 million people).

In 2003, there were around 9,000 broadband internet subscribers in Vietnam while the figure rose to 3.6 million last December.

By now, all districts across Vietnam have access to internet, and in a short time, internet will reach every corner of remote and mountainous areas and islands too.

Furthermore, achievements in free-internet given to schools nationwide have received applause from the international community.

Notably, Vietnam is using the most modern internet technologies, including ADSL and 3G. Online contents have been more and more useful and diversified.

87 businesses are operating in fields related to the internet nationwide.

Besides, Vietnam is among countries with the largest investment in telecom, IT, including the internet.

- How does the State manage internet, so that it could develop?

- The field of internet has received much attention by the Party and the State’s leaders. Without open, active management from State-owned sectors in creating mechanism and incentive policies, the internet in Vietnam could hardly develop..

Along with State-owned businesses, such as VNPT and Viettel, private ones, including FPT have greatly contributed to such a development.

Moreover, in order to encourage new businesses to develop and to create competitive environment, the State has applied management on price imposed on big enterprises which greatly affect the market.

IT has been recognised as a key industry in the development strategy of the nation. Besides, Vietnam is implementing a project to turn the country into a strong country in IT and Communication, with favourable policies for internet development.

Internet access in Co To district island

- The State is creating favourable conditions for all Vietnamese people to access the internet, isn’t it?

- Yes, it is. Internet has become an indispensable part of today’s society. All sectors, businesses and people could use internet for their purposes of information update, exchange, study, entertainment and so on. Internet has acted as a bridge, a tool and an all-powerful library that links people of all walks of life.

- With the current cost of internet access, could all people find it suitable to use the internet?

- The cost of internet access is very cheap in Vietnam. Thus, it is not a financial burden to access the internet all day. Now, we are very happy that internet can be accessed in even remote and mountainous region with low living standard. The cost of internet access can be more expensive in other countries.

- It is said that Vietnam is restricting the use of social networks. What is your comment?

- That comment might be made by those who are not living in Vietnam and not using internet here.

Actually, the number of users of Vietnam social networks is rather high. Famous social network, Yahoo 360, Facebook have appeared and much used by Vietnamese people.

In my opinion, the State should encourage the debut of Vietnam’s social networks that are suitable with Vietnam’s culture.

- Several bloggers have been caught due to their violation of Vietnam’s law, including propaganda against the State of Vietnam and insults to some individuals. Has it impacted on the internet environment of Vietnam?

- Internet should be seen as a tool, a linking environment that bears the concepts of internet community and virtual society. However, whether it is an internet community of a virtual society, it should obey the law of the country. In Vietnam is not an exception. It is normal to fine anyone who violates the law. Therefore, the above cases do not affect the internet environment and the development of internet in Vietnam.

- Do you have any suggestions on mechanism and policies that help promote internet in the coming time?

- I think more policies encouraging investment in telecom infrastructure, internet in remote and mountainous areas and in structures should be issued to further boost socio-economic development. The Public Interest Telecom Fund has been proven very effective. So, in my opinion, such a fund needs expanding.

- Thank you very much!

Translated by Mai Huong